tv 60 Minutes CBS May 10, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford >> cooper: michael michael blutrich was one of the best civilian informants against the new york mafia federal authorities say they ever had. he was also one of the unlikeliest. his undercover work helped send dozens of mob members and associates to prison, including john gotti jr. michael blutrich surreptitiously recorded about 1,000 hours of conversations with mobsters under very dangerous circumstances. >> when they brought us in to talk about going undercover, i remember my reaction was, are you mistaking me for someone with courage? i mean what are you talking about? you want me to wear a wire?
>> i've done close to 150 expeditions, and as i look back upon my history, the most important discoveries were the ones that i didn't know were there. >> logan: bob ballard discovered the "titanic" in 1985, and as you'll see tonight he hasn't stopped exploring. >> oh, i love that. >> logan: when you're operating 2,000 feet beneath the sea, you never know what you'll find. >> oh, beautiful. >> oh, wow. >> holy cow. >> wow. >> logan: or what will find you. >> alfonsi: greg glassman hardly looks like an exercise guru. there's no hint of rippeuscle underneath his untucked shirt but he's widely considered the most powerful man in fitness today. >> if you like metrics you like money, we're the fastest growing large chain on earth. we have broken all records. >> alfonsi: in just 15 years the king of crossfit has created the largest gym train in history. >> she was meant to look like
that. that's what nature would have carved from her a million years ago, or she would have b been eaten. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm lara logan. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on this special edition of "60 minutes." ill you have enough money to live life on your terms? i sure hope so. with healthcare costs, who knows. umm... everyone has retirement questions. so ameriprise created the exclusive confident retirement approach. now you and your ameripise advisor.... can get the real answers you need. start building your confident retirement today. ♪ ♪
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unlikeliest. blutrich's undercover work helped send dozens of mafia members and associates to prison, including john gotti jr., whom the government considered acting boss of the gambino crime family. risking his life by wearing an fbi wire, michael blutrich recorded about 1,000 hours of conversations with mobsters. but what happened to him after he cooperated with the fbi is as surprising as how his story began, which you'll hear him tell in full for the first time. the secret to michael blutrich's success, aside from his brains may very well have been his appearance and personality. street tough? nerves of steel? not exactly. it would be hard to find someone who looks less suited for the job of mafia informant than michael blutrich. >> cooper: when i first saw you walking down the street, i literally said, "that's the guy?!"
>> blutrich: thank you very much. >> cooper: no, i mean, you were probably the unlikeliest informer. >> blutrich: and i think that's what worked in my favor. i didn't think i had the courage. i don't think they thought i had the courage. unlike most informants, blutrich wasn't a member of any organized crime family; he was a well-off park avenue lawyer. >> blutrich: i was being... running a law firm during the day. i was... i was going out at night with the fbi. i'm dealing with mafia people. i'm making up stories about where i'm going and why am i going. >> cooper: how'd you keep all the lies straight? >> blutrich: lot of... lot of lying. because, you know, most of the stuff that we were telling the mafia were just invented stories to get them to talk. >> cooper: michael blutrich was in a unique position to inform on the mob because he was being extorted by them for money. back in the 1990s, he owned a blockbuster strip club, scores a playground for bankers and businessmen with fat expense accounts. the mob demanded a share of the profits. how much money was the club making? >> blutrich: at it's zenith,
maybe, you know, $400,000 a week. >> cooper: $400... almost half a million dollars. >> blutrich: right. >> cooper: that's a lot of money. >> blutrich: yes, sir. >> cooper: at scores, there were lines outside the door, and celebrities and professional athletes partying inside. >> blutrich: the new york rangers came to scores on the night they won the stanley cup filled the stanley cup with champagne and shared it with everybody, and then left the cup. >> cooper: they left the stanley cup there. >> blutrich: they... they got drunk, they left the cup. >> cooper: michael blutrich says the mafia showed up as he was opening scores on this block in new york's upper east side neighborhood. >> blutrich: and it's not one of these tough guy, thuggy approaches. it's more like a... a friendly approach. you know, "i want to save you from having a problem. you know you got to be protected." >> cooper: so they're doing you a favor? >> blutrich: that's exactly right. so i went along, not realizing that when you let the door open and the lion comes in, he doesn't settle for what he asks for. >> cooper: you gave them a finger and they'd take an arm. >> blutrich: no, they wouldn't have been happy with an arm, maybe an upper torso. >> cooper: this is stephen
sergio who, according to the fbi, was an associate of the gambino crime family. he was the first extortionist to push his way into scores. what was your job at the club? >> stephen sergio: i didn't do any accounting work. i didn't do any scheduling. i didn't do anything. but i was there to make sure everything went smoothly. >> cooper: you are an imposing guy, though. sergio considered himself an entrepreneur. he didn't just take money from michael blutrich, he took a cut from almost everybody who worked at the club-- the dancers, the dj, the busboys, the janitor. his take added up. >> sergio: it was $1,000 a week, it became $20,000 a week. >> cooper: so how did it work? you go to the liquor salesman and say, "you want to keep selling liquor to this club?" >> sergio: very, very, very friendly. >> cooper: "you give me a cut?" >> sergio: yes. >> cooper: stephen sergio was such a strong presence at scores, he could hire and fire people at will. take the case of the club's accountant, who got in sergio's way. >> sergio: he was trying to keep an accounting of me instead of keeping the account of the club. so sergio simply replaced him with someone he could control. >> sergio: a certain person
applied for a busboy job, and i doctored it into making him the in-house accountant. >> cooper: did he have any bookkeeping experience? >> sergio: absolutely none. he was... he was totally incompetent. >> cooper: in 1996, the fbi got a tip about the extortion and conducted a raid on scores. and that's when they made michael blutrich an offer he couldn't refuse. >> blutrich: i remember my reaction was, "are you mistaking me for... for someone with courage? i mean, what are you talking about? you want me to wear a wire?" >> cooper: but michael blutrich didn't have much choice. he wasn't just a club-owning lawyer being extorted by the mafia; he was also a crook, and the fbi knew it. he opened scores with money he'd stolen from the national heritage life insurance company in florida. blutrich and a few partners bought the insurance company in 1990 by writing a bad check, and went on to bilk nearly 26,000 mostly elderly policyholders out of their life savings. ultimately, it was a theft of $440 million, one of the biggest
white collar crimes in u.s. history. >> blutrich: it was easy money and i can never have a greater regret than going down that road. i mean, how stupid could i be? >> joe judge: they got control of the insurance company. and they looted it. >> cooper: former fbi investigator joe judge and former assistant u.s. attorney judy hunt had discovered the scam, and were building a case against blutrich and his partners in florida. >> judy hunt: i mean, they truly were new yorkers who believed that us people down in florida were just too dumb to figure out the convoluted schemes they had put in place. >> blutrich: i'm not making excuses. i'm not defending myself. i sometimes tell people i went to the dark side. >> cooper: you got greedy. >> blutrich: i got greedy. >> cooper: michael blutrich figured if he cooperated with the fbi against the mafia in new york, florida authorities would have to give him a break on his crimes there. >> blutrich: the whole inducement was "come on board. become part of the government's team and you will be redeemed." >> bill ready: you basically explain to michael, "you have no choice. there's no way out."
>> cooper: new york fbi agent bill ready, who knew all about blutrich's problems in florida had him under surveillance for months before developing him as an informant against the mob. >> ready: he was nervous a lot. he always needed constant reassurance. >> cooper: would he call you a lot? >> ready: yeah. >> cooper: all day long, he'd be calling you? >> ready: oh, yeah, yeah. and it would start in the morning and would continue throughout the day right until my head hit the pillow at night. >> cooper: in 1997, ready and the fbi used hidden cameras in blutrich's offices to record meetings with all manner of suspected mobsters. the cameras captured blutrich handing over envelopes of cash and alleged mob associates bragging about crimes. >> cooper: they also recorded some not-so-subtle threats, here to blutrich's partner by alleged gambino associate michael sergio. >> michael sergio: "take care of yourself, all right? and don't worry about your
health, you'll be fine. >> cooper: you look at the tapes, and some of the guys you're dealing with, i mean, it... they're out of central casting. >> blutrich: you're absolutely correct. >> cooper: i mean... >> blutrich: and sometimes i would just laugh inside, you know, to say "what... well, look what my life has become." they would come in with the jewelry, and the sweat suits and they'd sit down, "hey," you know, "it's so good to see you," you know. "what's going on, man?" >> cooper: but the office wasn't the only thing the fbi bugged for sound. michael blutrich wore a wire for 11 months. it was a clunky audio recorder strapped to his inner thigh. >> ready: back in those days our equipment was archaic compared to what... what's out there now. what we would use is... we'd call it an "f-bird," which stands for, you know, "f.b.i. recording device." >> cooper: f-bird. >> ready: f-bird, yeah. >> blutrich: and they duct-taped the f-bird to my leg and... >> cooper: this is not exactly high tech. >> blutrich: well, no, i'm... i'm saying, "what's go... what's going on here? this is how they do this? they don't do it in the movies this way." you don't see james bond, i mean, duct tape wrapped around his leg. so, this is how we do it? and the other problem is, the
f-bird gets really hot, so as i'm doing the first night, which was hours and hours and hours, my leg is like a skillet. i mean, it's burning. you know, i'm trying to be pleasant and nice and natural, and it's killing me. >> cooper: the first night he wore the wire, he went to dinner with alleged gambino family associate michael sergio. blutrich successfully prompted him to boast about his mob connections, describe crimes and name names. >> blutrich: and he's talking about all these... all these different people, and at the end of it, we go back to the office for the debriefing. and the first words out of their mouth was, "that was great except we got to do it again because the recording device failed." my... my initial impression's, "again? you want us to do the same thing again? don't you think he's going to find that a little odd?" "no, it'll be fine. it'll be fine." >> cooper: blutrich did go out again... and again. in total, he recorded about 1,000 hours of conversations mostly in restaurants over long
dinners. >> blutrich: the fbi had given us a password that, if we uttered and they heard, they would come crashing through the windows to save our lives. >> cooper: what was the password? >> blutrich: the password was, "i think i'm going to puke," to which i said, "what?" ( laughs ) >> cooper: that was the password the fbi decided to give you. >> blutrich: that... that was their... i said, "listen..." >> cooper: so if you said, "i think i'm going to puke..." >> blutrich: they're coming in. >> cooper: it was dangerous work. there were several times mobsters surprised him and patted him down, nearly discovering his recording equipment. >> blutrich: i mean, i had guns taken out, brandished in front of me, put to my head, threatened all... you know, in every which way you could be threatened. >> cooper: what kept you motivated? >> blutrich: if i did all this for the government, the reward was... was plain. i would not see the inside of a jail cell. >> cooper: with michael blutrich's help, in 1998, the department of justice was able to indict dozens of alleged members and associates of the mafia, including john gotti, jr., who the fbi considered the acting boss of the gambino crime
family. it was a huge success, and former prosecutor art leach says much of the credit goes to michael blutrich. in the pantheon of informants, where was michael blutrich? >> art leach: he would be in the scale of extraordinary. >> cooper: no one like michael blutrich. >> leach: ten times better than the best. >> cooper: art leach investigated organized crime for the u.s. attorney's office in atlanta. blutrich was his star witness against the mafia in a related case there. >> leach: he is a trained lawyer, and a good lawyer. he understood what kind of evidence was necessary in order to make these cases, and he just worked his way towards it. >> cooper: it's easy to underestimate him but... >> leach: exactly. >> cooper: but he shouldn't be underestimated. >> leach: and they did underestimate him, and they paid mightily for it. >> cooper: but blutrich's hands were not completely clean, either. before he began cooperating with the fbi, he also had committed crimes in new york. at the end of the investigation, federal authorities brought seven counts against him including racketeering, tax evasion, and receipt of obscene
materials. michael blutrich pleaded guilty, but did no prison time because of his cooperation. but in florida, when blutrich had to face the court in the insurance fraud case, it didn't go as he expected, despite efforts by federal authorities to help him. fbi agent bill ready and former prosecutor art leach made statements to the florida judge on blutrich's behalf. and then-assistant attorney general michael chertoff wrote a letter praising his "extremely valuable cooperation." but in the end, michael blutrich was sentenced to 16 years in prison, far more time than any of the mobsters he helped put away. when you heard the sentence... >> blutrich: i almost passed out. ( laughs ) i almost passed out. >> cooper: you know, you helped steal millions of dollars from an awful lot of people, from innocent people. 16 years in jail doesn't sound like a huge amount for the crime. >> blutrich: i couldn't disagree more. >> cooper: do you think you
should have done any prison time? >> blutrich: i would have lived comfortably with zero to a year. >> hunt: arrogance. arrogance. i think he thought that the cooperation against the mob was so significant and so powerful that it would essentially dispense him from any culpability or punishment in florida. >> cooper: former prosecutor judy hunt says blutrich could have fared as badly as his co- conspirator sholam weiss, who was sentenced to prison for a record 845 years. but former prosecutor art leach sees it differently. you think he got a raw deal? >> leach: i don't think that the judge properly considered how important his cooperation was to the department of justice and how horrible his sentence was, in terms of developing cooperators like michael blutrich in the future. >> cooper: blutrich ended up serving 13 years in prison and was released two years ago. despite betraying the mob and helping send a lot of wise guys
to prison, michael blutrich is not in a witness protection program. he's out on the streets, hiding in plain sight. are you scared? >> blutrich: i'm fatalistic. if... if i'm going to sit and shiver, i'm not going to have a life. so, i forfeited my life 13 years in jail, i'm not going to forfeit the rest of it by... by being scared. >> cooper: do you believe his life is still in danger? >> leach: his life is absolutely in danger. he will be in danger for the rest of his life. >> cooper: from the mafia? >> leach: the mob takes retribution seriously. and it... it has a long memory and they will find an opportunity, if possible, and they will kill michael blutrich. yoplait greek 100. the protein-packed need something filling, taste bud loving, deliciously fruity, grab-and-go, take on the world with 100 calories, snack. yoplait greek 100. there are hundreds of reasons to snack on it.
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>> logan: robert ballard has embarked on a new wave of american exploration, inspired by the epic journey of lewis and clark more than 200 years ago. this time, it's not over land, but in a part of the country that lies in the deep sea. you may know ballard as the man who found the "titanic." we first spent time with him a few years ago when he took us on a search for ancient shipwrecks in the aegean sea, but at the age of 72, he's changed course and come home. why? because the u.s. has jurisdiction over more ocean
than any other country on earth, and beneath the waves lies trillions of dollars in untapped natural resources and, as we saw on our journey, a wealth of american history. robert ballard calls it "the unknown america." we joined him about 100 miles off the coast of mississippi in the gulf of mexico. >> robert ballard: if you ask someone, "how much of the united states do you think lies beneath the sea?" they may say, "5% or 10%." and when you tell them that half of their country lies beneath the sea and is unexplored, they don't believe you. >> logan: does it have a special meaning for you because it's home? >> ballard: yea, i'm 13th generation american. i love my country. and i served in the army. i served in the navy. i'm a boy scout, yeah. bob ballard's "unknown america" stretches out to 200 nautical miles from all our coasts. this vast undersea area is called the u.s. exclusive
economic zone. and the united states has sovereign rights over all the natural resources that lie there, like this methane gas ballard filmed bubbling up from the seafloor off the coast of louisiana. oh, look at that! the zone was established by president ronald reagan in 1983, and few realized that it more than doubled the area within america's boundaries. >> ballard: reagan may have signed a sheet of paper, but he did not follow it up with a modern-day version of a lewis and clark expedition to actually find out what we own. >> logan: and that's what you're doing? >> ballard: that's what we're doing. >> logan: with technology not fathomable during president reagan's time, ballard is exploring and mapping as much of these waters as he can aboard the "nautilus," this 200-foot state-of-the-art ship of exploration. >> ballard: i mean, you can't manage something until you know what you've got. so, before you can exploit, you explore. and so that's what we are doing
right now. we're trying to get a fundamental understanding of what we own. >> logan: his remotely operated vehicles can go down more than 13,000 feet. "hercules" is armed with an array of cameras, ballard's eyes under the sea. "argus" hovers above, lighting up the depths with its powerful floodlights. >> keep going, keep going. >> logan: on our first day at sea, ballard's team was on a mission for archaeologists with the u.s. government. >> ballard: oh, look at that. >> logan: how far away are we now? >> ballard: 40 meters-- a hundred and some feet. and we're creeping up because we don't know what we're walking into. we're going down a dark alley. >> logan: he'd been given the coordinates for a mysterious object that had been picked up on sonar by shell oil, and he was asked to find out what it was. what do you think it could be? >> ballard: it's a ship. >> logan: it is definitely? >> ballard: oh, yeah, look at that. it's a ship. it's just a question of whose ship and what ship, and it's a big one.
it's a big ship. >> logan: there it is. >> ballard: there we have it. we have visual. >> logan: out of the darkness, nearly 8,000 feet below, a tangled web of cables and rope. it was an enormous ship, nearly two football fields in length. >> ballard: oh, it's in pretty good shape. >> logan: i know, it's like it just landed there. ballard searched the ghostly site for clues. >> ballard: there's an h-e... see that h-e? >> logan: yeah. >> ballard: it's like battle ribbons or something. i'm interested that all the windows are battened down. see all those windows? they prepared it. you don't have time in a disaster to do that. was this something sunk purposely? we're going to find out. >> logan: it's fascinating to... trying to unravel the mystery of it. >> ballard: yeah, isn't it fun? >> logan: yeah. bob ballard has been unraveling deep sea mysteries for 55 years, and none better known than the "titanic," which he found in
1985 after others had tried and failed. >> and then you see neil armstrong... >> logan: we asked him to show us around the explorer's club in new york city, where he's honored as one of the greatest explorers of the past century, and he told us he's committed the rest of his life to searching america's seas. what is down there that you think you're going to find? >> ballard: i've done close to 150 expeditions. and as i look back upon my history, the most important discoveries were the ones that i didn't know were there. i can only tell you that we've looked at so little, there has to be huge new discoveries still waiting for us. >> logan: part of what inspired his american exploration is what he calls the "battlefields of the deep." but right now, we're in the gulf of mexico. >> ballard: yeah. >> logan: beneath us is a world war ii battlefield. >> ballard: yep, most people don't realize that, during world war ii, german u-boats were
right where we're sitting right now, sinking american ships. and lots of americans were dying. >> logan: 56 allied ships were lost to the nazis in the gulf of mexico, part of a campaign hitler called "operation drumbeat." he celebrated germany's u-boat victories in wartime propaganda films like this one. >> ballard: okay, dead ahead. get ready for a big baby. >> logan: one of those lost was an american passenger ship, the "robert e. lee." and there she was, appearing slowly out of the gloom. this is what she used to look like, in one of the few surviving photographs taken just months before she was hit by a single torpedo in july 1942. she went down by the stern in about 10 minutes, taking 25 people with her, and came to rest nearly 5000 feet below. >> ballard: there you can see the decks and the passageways. >> logan: now you can really see
it. 72 years later, her windows were still intact, a bell still hanging in place, her gun still mounted to the stern. >> ballard: this is an underwater national park. just like a civil war battlefield. just like going to pearl harbor. we're just a little deeper. >> logan: what's remarkable is that the robert e. lee shares her watery grave with the u-boat that sank her, the u-166, seen here during sea trials in this old german film. now, she lies under 5,000 feet of water. for decades, no one knew these wrecks were just a few miles apart until b.p. and shell oil conducted a pipeline survey here in 2001. how many people died on here? >> ballard: the whole crew. >> logan: their bodies are still inside? >> ballard: they're still inside. that's a tomb. >> logan: bob ballard's mission was to try to film both wrecks in ways they hadn't been seen before. >> ballard: so now you just go
straight up and around like you're going to crawl up onto the deck. look at that beautiful reveal. oh, i love that. >> logan: as luck would have it, the seas were calm and the images he captured are considered some of the clearest views of these sites. they're featured in a nova- national geographic documentary. >> ballard: okeanos, that's really cool. >> logan: bob ballard is not alone in his american adventure. his ship, the "nautilus," has joined forces with the "okeanos explorer," operated by noaa, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. >> ballard: they're the only two official ships of exploration that the federal government has. i'd like to have 20, but i'll go for two. it's better than zero, which was just a few years ago. >> logan: both the "nautilus" and the "okeanos explorer" are mapping the seafloor using multi-beam sonar attached to their hulls, a capability so powerful, it used to be classified during the cold war. how important is mapping to you in what the "nautilus" is doing?
>> ballard: people think, "well, the... the ocean's a big bathtub full of mud." well, the largest mountain ranges on earth are under the ocean. there are canyons down there that make the grand canyon look like a ditch. the biggest features on our planet are beneath the sea. >> logan: ballard works closely with larry mayer, the director of the center for coastal and ocean mapping at the university of new hampshire, a world leader in creating 3-d maps based on multi-beam data. >> larry mayer: our goal is to get the whole ocean mapped at this... >> logan: to look like that. >> mayer: brilliant! we can do it. we... we've done it for the moon, we've done it for mars. let's... let's do it for our own planet. >> logan: this is what the seafloor looks like with multi- beam data just 90 miles from new york city. you can see the hudson canyon with walls 3,000 feet high. and here, you are looking at the new england sea mounts far off the coast of massachusetts, some
rising 10,000 feet from the bottom of the ocean. >> mayer: let's turn off the multi-beam data and just see what these mountains looked like without the multi-beam data. >> logan: look at that. >> mayer: that's all you'd see. yes, there was a bump and it would probably get close to getting the right height. but the difference is just something when we see what the multi-beam sonar adds. >> logan: and what do you gain from this knowledge? >> mayer: it's giving us an insight. it's like lifting a veil. you know, all we've seen is the top of the water. now, we can see what's going on underneath. >> logan: bob ballard always travels with a team of scientists, and on our trip, they had come to take samples of the mussels living around this brine pool, an underwater lake with its own shoreline. with no sunlight and almost no food at this depth, the mussels have learned to live off methane gas rising up from below. >> ballard: and we want to understand how do they do that? can we isolate them and use them? it's amazing what these organisms are processing and
thriving in. >> logan: so when you look at that, do you think about all the secrets that they're holding that we haven't unlocked yet? >> ballard: exactly. how do you do this, and can we turn it to our advantage? >> logan: ballard's team on the "nautilus" explores for about six months a year, sailing with a crew of 50. and everything they do is shared in real time on the internet which is how this rare encounter with a sperm whale nearly 2,000 feet down in the gulf of mexico was seen around the world. >> wow! awesome! oh, wow! >> logan: scientists had been sampling seawater near the site of the b.p. oil spill when this curious juvenile male circled "hercules" for 15 minutes. >> ballard: scientists don't normally share their data right away. we share it the minute we collect it because we want everyone to help. we can't wait to turn the corner
and go, "what in the world is that?" and then immediately, reach off the ship and call someone, wake them up. they're in bed and say, turn on your laptop! >> logan: that's how ballard's team identified that massive ship we saw earlier at the bottom of the gulf. >> ballard: yeah, what the heck is it? it's a... it looks like a naval vessel. you saw it work in a matter of minutes. we don't know what it is. and the archeologists and the maritime historian, they don't know what it is. and then people started coming in on the web and saying, you know, it's a spruance class destroyer. >> logan: it was an american warship, the u.s.s. "peterson." one of the sailors who served on her gave us this footage of the night 14 tomahawk missiles were launched from her deck into baghdad in 1993, retaliation for an iraqi plan to assassinate former president george h.w. bush. and just as ballard suspected,
the ship was sunk intentionally. we got this video from the u.s. navy, which shows them testing a new fire-fighting system aboard the peterson 11 years ago. the navy told us they sank her right afterwards, but they didn't share that information. and those archeologists in the u.s. government who had turned to bob ballard had no idea the u.s.s. "peterson" was down there. so that is one mystery solved? >> ballard: yep, chalk that one up. next. >> logan: and there'll be more. >> ballard: there'll always be more. that's what's the fun of it. can't wait for the next mystery. you're finally here. long way from the sandlot. first game in the majors? you don't know "aarp". because this family is enjoying a cross-country baseball stadium trip they planned online at aarp travel. it's where your journey begins with inspiration, planning, booking, and hot travel tips from real pros. if you don't think seize the trip when you think aarp
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>> pelley: now sharyn alfonsi on assign. for "60 minutes." >> alfonsi: there are more >> alfonsi: there are more gyms in america than ever before, but we're more overweight than we've ever been. lots of people have theories as to why, but we're about to introduce you to a man who says he's figured it out. greg glassman is the unlikely creator of the biggest fitness phenomenon in the world right now, called "crossfit". it's a workout program that's unpredictable, uncompromising, and raw, a lot like the man who created it. glassman likes to say he runs crossfit more like a biker gang than a business, but business is booming. in just 15 years, the king of crossfit has created the largest gym chain in history and turned fitness into a spectator sport. >> it's still a battle here in this heat. >> alfonsi: last summer, the finals of the crossfit games were broadcast on espn. 45,000 people showed up to watch contestants who looked like superheroes heave, jump, and lift until a champion was crowned.
>> rich froning is the fittest man in history! >> alfonsi: if this is the body that defines a new kind of fitness... >> greg glassman: i think we'll be all right. >> alfonsi: the brain that dreamt it all up belongs to greg glassman. well before crossfit was a competition, he designed it as a new way to workout. he says it can transform anyone, and he's not just talking about bulging biceps and six-pack abs. >> greg glassman: i'll deliver you to your genetic potential. >> alfonsi: your genetic potential? >> glassman: yeah, how do you like that? >> alfonsi: it sounds like you're creating a robot or something? >> glassman: look at her, she was meant to look like that. that's what nature would have carved from her a million years ago. or she'd have been eaten. >> alfonsi: greg glassman hardly looks like an exercise guru. there's no hint of ripped muscle underneath his untucked shirt, but he is widely considered the most powerful man in fitness today.
glassman is the architect of crossfit, a workout program that mixes elements of weightlifting, calisthenics, and gymnastics. the classes take place in what crossfitters call a "box," a stripped down, willfully ugly space. >> elbows, elbows, elbows. up, up, up. there we go. >> alfonsi: the exercises range from simple to sadistic, and made greg glassman, a college dropout, a multi-millionaire. you know, you didn't invent weightlifting. >> glassman: nope. >> alfonsi: you didn't invent calisthenics. >> glassman: nope. >> alfonsi: you didn't invent gymnastics. >> glassman: nope. >> alfonsi: so, what'd you do? >> glassman: i invented that doing lateral raises and curls while eating pretzels is dumb. that's what i invented. >> alfonsi: he says, for decades, gym owners have ignored the importance of diet, and been all too happy to watch their members fall into a trance on the treadmill. do you think people think they're getting a workout and aren't getting a workout? >> glassman: well, i mean, look, you get sweaty and you come home tired. i can appreciate that.
but many people are much closer to doing nothing than they perhaps realize. >> alfonsi: is everything up till now been wrong in the fitness industry? >> glassman: yes. yeah. as far as i can see. >> logan: crossfit classes usually don't take more than an hour. athletes compete against each other and the clock. >> good job. to keep their energy up, they're encouraged to follow something called a paleo diet, heavy on meat and vegetables-- food fit for a caveman. i have heard you say that crossfit prepares athletes for "the unknown and the unforeseen." >> glassman: it's the... >> alfonsi: it sounds like you're getting ready to go to war. >> glassman: yeah, why not? yeah. for getting ready for war, getting ready for earthquake getting ready for mugging, getting ready for the horrible news that you have leukemia. what awaits us all is... is challenge, that's for sure.
>> alfonsi: crossfit, he says, is creating a new "super breed," and although some of their athletes appear to be carved out of marble, he says the focus isn't big muscles. it's simple, functional movements like squatting and lifting, whether you're 25 or 75. >> glassman: would i use dead lifts in both cases? absolutely. squatting in both cases? absolutely. >> alfonsi: you'd have a 75- year-old doing dead lifts? >> glassman: uh-huh. yeah. to say no is to say that, if you drop your pen on the ground, you're not going to pick it up. it's a dead lift. it's picking something off the ground. it does not require a physician's okay. if your physician doesn't think you should dead lift, you need to get a new doctor is what you need. >> alfonsi: glassman started to teach people to lift, jump and sprint long before crossfit became a household name. he had polio as a child and used gymnastics to regain his strength. in high school, a bad dismount left him with a permanent limp. he became a personal trainer and started experimenting with some of the exercises that would become the backbone of his
creation. his workouts were loud disruptive, and gym owners were not impressed. how many gyms did you get tossed out of? >> glassman: about five or six. >> alfonsi: five or six? >> glassman: seven. >> alfonsi: you don't like being told what to do. >> glassman: oh, i don't mind being told what to do. i just won't do it. say anything you want. >> alfonsi: he opened his own gym in santa cruz in 2001. today, there are 12,000 crossfit boxes around the world, each one defiantly barren. the company is private, but estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. and greg glassman owns 100% of it. he has no board of directors and says he never had a business plan. >> this is awesome. can i have a picture with you? >> glassman: i would love that. >> alfonsi: but recently found himself at harvard business school. >> glassman: you like metrics? you like money? we're the fastest growing large chain on earth. we have broken all records. >> where he was invited to share
the secrets behind crossfit's meteoric growth. >> glassman: i'm not trying to grow a business. i'm doing the right things for the right people for the right reasons. >> alfonsi: one reason crossfit's grown so fast is because just about anyone who wants to open a box can, after paying a $3,000 yearly fee and passing a two-day seminar. it's how the company makes most of its money. two days to take a course, then i can open a gym? >> glassman: amazing, huh? >> alfonsi: i mean, to me, is that enough? >> glassman: well, the... here was the alternative. here's what it used to be-- all you had to have was the money. and you don't even have to take a test. that's where every other chain came from, someone just launched them. >> alfonsi: and unlike most gym chains, glassman-- a die-hard libertarian-- relinquishes nearly all control over his affiliates. they can open a box next door to another box if they want. it's probably not surprising glassman believes the strongest one will survive. you don't have an iron fist on them on how they do this. >> glassman: nope.
it's not a franchise, it's... >> alfonsi: they can do it any way they want to do it. >> glassman: this isn't kentucky fried chicken or... yeah, it's crossfit. >> alfonsi: you let them do what they want to do once they... >> glassman: i do. >> alfonsi: although, he occasionally fires up the company plane, grabs the family dog, and drops in on an affiliate unannounced. so you're not going in there looking for trouble? >> glassman: not at all. but if i saw someone pulling with their arms or a rounded back, i think it's inevitable that i would say something. >> alfonsi: at the company's media office in the silicon valley, they publish a different "workout of the day" every day and more information about crossfit than you could read in a lifetime. and what does it cost for people to access the stuff that you're putting online? >> glassman: there is no cost. >> alfonsi: how does that make sense? it's free. >> glassman: yeah. it... it didn't until we did it- - you know, the more video we give away, the more money we make. >> alfonsi: crossfitters created a huge virtual community posting videos of workouts and wipeouts, and spreading
glassman's gospel around the world, in africa, siberia, and on the frontlines of afghanistan and iraq. whether soldiers or soccer moms, the evangelical enthusiasm of glassman's disciples... >> one, two, three, heck yeah. >> alfonsi: ...has led to criticism. when you hear people describe crossfit as a cult, what do you say? >> glassman: oh, i don't mind that. what if someone led a cult and they didn't know they were?" i mean, that would be messed up, right? so i started to kind of try to think what makes us a cult and what would define a cult. one is recruiting, and i ain't recruiting anybody. i don't... you know what, you guys... people call me up, "hey, i was thinking about joining crossfit." "well, then call back when you've decided to," you know? >> alfonsi: so the doors are open, you're not recruiting... >> glassman: yeah, we're not recruiting, we're not barring the doors. i mean, it really is an open house. >> alfonsi: glassman says he spends most of his time defending the crossfit brand with an iron fist. >> glassman: if you don't defend it, you won't have a brand for
long. we are in shark-infested waters and i've got shark-repellent attorneys. >> alfonsi: how many attorneys do you have working for you now? >> glassman: dozens. they're everywhere. they're everywhere. like freaking leprechauns. >> alfonsi: the most exercised muscle at crossfit may be this man, their general counsel. he oversees a legal staff of 12, but glassman has hired another 80-- eight, zero-- outside law firms to defend its reputation and its trademark. they've gone after a company selling bogus crossfit-branded jump ropes, taken on gyms in puerto rico and germany who used their name without permission, and are suing the publishers of a study that allegedly contained made-up information about crossfit's safety record. >> glassman: i love my lawyers. i love my lawyers. >> alfonsi: very few people say that. >> glassman: i know. it's weird. >> alfonsi: so how many lawsuits have you been involved in? >> glassman: 30 or 40. more? 50? >> yeah. >> alfonsi: have you lost any? >> glassman: no, won every single one of them. >> alfonsi: you like the fight? >> glassman: i do. yeah.
>> alfonsi: his most tenacious fight revolves around headlines that crossfit could be dangerous or worse, deadly. some journalists have questioned how the regimen might be bad for one's back, shoulders, or even kidneys. because it's such a new phenomenon, there aren't many studies about the overall safety of crossfit. the few that exist found it to be about as safe as gymnastics or weightlifting, and less likely to cause an injury than running. greg glassman is so sure it's safe, the father of six allowed his future seventh child to be part of this class. >> alfonsi: to that person who's sitting in their living room saying, "this all sounds interesting, but i... you know i've heard things and i don't want to get hurt"? >> glassman: stay in your chair where you're sure to get hurt, and you'll become one of the 300,000 people that will die next year from sitting in their chair doing nothing. >> he is speed-roping up... >> alfonsi: another reason glassman's been so good at getting people out of their chairs is the success of the crossfit games. this year, 273,000 people around
the world competed for a chance to be featured in the finals. it is a spectacle-- part olympic games, part hunger games. and the winner is crowned the fittest man or woman on earth. >> announcer: camille leblanc- bazinet! >> alfonsi: ... a title you'll be shocked to learn greg glassman had his lawyers trademark. he told us no one in the world is in better shape than the games' top athletes. you bet the mortgage, not the rent, on... on the... >> glassman: i bet everything on it. you're going to come and... and best the games athletes out of nowhere, the same way you're going to walk out here on the street and put together a stanley cup challenge out of morons walking by. it ain't going to happen. >> crossfit games title within reach. >> alfonsi: the games are sponsored by reebok. crossfit is credited with re- energizing the reebok brand and boosting sales.
>> glassman: fitness apparel should be technical apparel. >> alfonsi: but five years into a ten-year deal that may be crossfit's most important commercial partnership, glassman has developed some strong opinions about reebok's owners the german company adidas, and he wasn't shy about sharing them on "60 minutes." >> glassman: i'd like to see reebok sold. >> alfonsi: to who? >> glassman: someone young fresh, excited, and willing to enter into the modern era of... of things. >> alfonsi: that's a pretty bold thing... >> glassman: isn't it? >> alfonsi: ...for you to say. >> glassman: yeah. >> alfonsi: does anyone ever say to you, "greg, like, you shouldn't say that"? >> glassman: yeah. i've had people tell me, "boy, i... he's stark raving mad, but he sure is sincere," you know? like, "okay, good." you know i believe it. you know i believe it.
>> if you think greg glassman is outrageous, wait until you meet his corporate mascot. go to 60minutesovertime.com. may be too strong, which may be preventing you from getting the sleep you need. talk to your doctor about ways to manage your insomnia. lowe's presents: how to install a new washing machine with one finger. maybe a little more that way... nice! now get 10% off major appliances $396 or more, at lowe's.
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>> pelley: i'm scott pelley. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." tomorrow be sure the watch cbs "this morning" and i'll see you on the "cbs evening news." your allergies bring more than sneezing... ...and itchy eyes. they also bring tough nasal congestion. so you need claritin-d. it starts to work... ...in just 30 minutes. in fact, nothing works faster. so blow away nasal congestion, fast, with claritin-d. i'm really psyched subway's bringing the flavor with this new guacamole made from creamy hass avocados...
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